After 50 years, Francis Ford Coppola “The Godfather” isn’t over yet – and it’s not over for him either.
Coppola gave his life and blood with that crime epic, which won three Academy Awards, including best picture, brought in millions of dollars for Paramount Pictures and influenced the making film spanning half a century.
In an effort to preserve “The Godfather” for future generations, Paramount, Coppola, and his colleagues at American Zoetrope previously worked together on repaired and revived versions of the film 15 years ago. year, according to what is then billed as “The Coppola Restoration.”
Now on the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” which opened in New York on March 15, 1972, Coppola and these studios have made a new restoration. This latest edition was created with higher quality film sources, improved digital technology, and approximately 4,000 hours spent repairing stains, tears, and other flaws. (It will be released in theaters on Friday and on home video on March 22.)
As Coppola explained last week, “The whole thing is trying to make it look like it was in the original screening of ‘The Godfather’, when it was two weeks old, not 20 or 50 years old.”
Coppola, now 82, said he never tires of scrutinizing the film. But naturally, any time he spends contemplating “The Godfather” brings back many emotions and memories – the pain of its spoiled production and pride in its overwhelming success. .
“You have to understand that, as a filmmaker, I really don’t know how to do ‘The Godfather,'” he said. “I learned how to make ‘The Godfather’ make it.”
Speaking in a video interview with James Mockoski, film archivist and restoration supervisor for American Zoetrope, Coppola discussed his new work “The Godfather,” scenes he wanted to keep in the shadows, and scenes was almost cut – and even worked on one for his latest movie in the making, “Megalopolis.” Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Why is a recovery attempt so necessary?
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA The studio system, which has done so well, has always been weak in this regard. “The Godfather” was surprisingly successful in its day. But Paramount was very ill-prepared for that success. Suddenly, it finds itself shown in New York in five cinemas, because of the demand to see it so, and then in other places around the world. Instead of saying, let’s keep the original negative because it would be a valuable asset, they’ve basically worn it down to something terrible because they’ve used it to create so much. printout. The prints started out looking nothing like what the movie really should look like.
JAMES MOCKOSKI There are no great prints of “The Godfather” from the original release. So what we rely on is Gordy’s [the film’s cinematographer, Gordon Willis] approved restoration. Other than that, we won’t have a clue what the movie actually looked like when it was originally released.
COPPOLA And this is further complicated by Gordy Willis deliberately using a very dangerous creative technique. He flirts that it’s underexposed – which is a sin – in parts of the frame. If the actor wasn’t exactly where he was, if he was two feet away from where Gordy thought he was going, he would likely be in total darkness. It makes it beautiful, but it’s very unforgiving.
How did you find the movie parts that were used in this restoration?
MOCKOSKI We’ve found a little more since previous restorations. Paramount found it in other [film] can. They tried to put the first two movies together [made for television and titled “The Godfather Saga”] and when they cut the film, it got caught in the other cans.
Is there any unused footage from “The Godfather” that you haven’t found yet?
MOCKOSKI The “Godfather”, because of its success, they kept everything. Paramount has control over movies like “Conversation” [the 1974 Coppola drama] And when it was locked up and being distributed, they took everything he shot that wasn’t in the movie and they sent it to stock cinematography. So we don’t have anything other than what you see. Then we keep everything from “Apocalypse Now”, “One From the Heart” and everything in our vault.
[A spokeswoman for Paramount confirmed this, adding that the studio has 36 shots from “The Conversation” in its stock library.]
Is there anything in this renovation that you are still not completely satisfied with?
MOCKOSKI There are still things in the wedding scene that are of degraded quality. But in general, in this restoration, you can hardly know it.
What is it like to scrutinize every frame of “The Godfather”?
MOCKOSKI It’s fun to watch everything frame by frame, because you’ll see things that no one else really sees. As they fade or disappear, you’ll see someone with a plank. There is a scene – old man sing a wedding songHis dentures started falling out.
This is a movie that is, by design, supposed to be very dark. How do you know when you’re looking at an image that’s too dark – or not dark enough?
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COPPOLA We had an early meeting between me, Gordy Willis, Dean Tavoularis [the production designer] and Anna Hill Johnstone [the costume designer] about what the style will be like. We talked about the use of shadow and light. [In the first scenes] Don Corleone’s office is going to be really dark, compared to the almost overexposed, magazine-like vibrant wedding photo. That was intentional. I know, and any truly attentive person knows, what is important in the frame.
MOCKOSKI It is also a danger when we pass it on. Everyone wants to put their fingerprints on it and do something new. With new technology, it’s trying to put a lot of light into it. You’ve got this beautiful opening and they want to see all the details and wood paneling. That is not the problem. It’s not “The Godfather”.
Are these things you paid a lot of attention to during the making of the original film?
COPPOLA I can’t say that it’s in my nature to worry about photo details. “The Godfather” was a very difficult experience for me. I’m young. I was pushed around and I pushed back. I did a lot of innocent things. I’m glad I survived the experience of “The Godfather” and I want nothing more to do with it. I don’t even want to direct “The Godfather II”.
Do you ever get tired of watching “The Godfather”?
MOCKOSKI I’m always nervous when I show him because he’ll probably say, “Ah, but you know what I want to do that I can’t do is make these changes——” and here’s another cut. But he will sit there and watch it. He never gets tired of it and he will have the most amazing stories. [To Coppola] You told me when we did the last review that they didn’t want you to shoot scene of Brando having a heart attack.
COPPOLA That was cut from the script. Paramount found out, when you get to the cemetery, you’ll know he’s dead. But I stole it [scene] by arriving a little early at the wedding and placing the tomatoes in the same spot. Brando said, let me do this trick that I do myself [children]. And he did the orange peel trick. It was his idea and he saved me. Thanks to Marlon Brando and Dean Tavoularis for getting the tomatoes. We had to bring them in from somewhere else and it was a huge scandal about how much they had to pay for a scene that was cut from the script.
Do you want to edit “The Godfather” in your own way? reshaping “The Godfather Part III” into “The Godfather, Coda”?
COPPOLA “Godfather,” I would say I don’t want to make any changes. There are some images I have been changing and some I will not touch. But there’s no rule of thumb about those. Ask me now, a movie, if I will change it or not. Do you have a movie of mine you’d like to ask me about?
Uh – I just re-watched “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” a few weeks ago. How about that?
COPPOLA There are no changes to “Dracula.” That’s the cut. “Dracula” is a finished movie.
“The Godfather” has been around for 50 years. If it turned out to be the movie you’re most known for, would you be comfortable with that?
COPPOLA I think this is already the movie I’m most known for. If you asked people why I should be considered the most important, they would say “Godfather”. Maybe “Apocalypse Now” is a part two ending. “Apocalypse Now” is a more unusual and interesting movie, in a few ways. But I always make movies that I don’t really know how to make and learn from the film itself. That’s why my career is so weird. I assure you, “Megalopolis” is the most ambitious, most unusual and strangest movie I have ever tried and I don’t know how. And I love that, because I know it will teach me.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/movies/godfather-francis-ford-coppola.html Restore ‘The Godfather’ to Original Glory (Still Dark)